Sheffield education expert calls for improved standards

Expert: Prof Cathy Nutbrown.
Expert: Prof Cathy Nutbrown.
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AN EXPERT in childhood education at Sheffield University has criticised qualifications for childminders and nursery staff in a Government-commissioned review.

Professor Cathy Nutbrown warns ‘worrying trends’ have developed in early years qualifications. She claims they are failing to provide the knowledge and skills needed to care for and teach young children.

Prof Nutbrown also claims the current system is too confusing, inconsistent and ‘lacks rigour’ and calls for a major revamp of the system, with all staff educated to A-level standard.

Her report says: “Some current qualifications lack rigour and depth, and quality is not consistent.

“I was concerned to find a climate of mistrust in current early-years qualifications, and anxiety, which I share on reading the evidence, that standards have declined in recent years.

“I am concerned the current early-years qualifications system is not equipping practitioners with the knowledge, skills and understanding they need to give young children high-quality experiences.”

Under the current system, nurseries and early years groups must be managed by someone who has a relevant level-three qualification - equivalent to A-levels, and at least half of the staff have to be educated to level two - equivalent to GCSE at grade C or above.

But Prof Nutbrown argues level two is not good enough, and someone with this level should not be considered qualified.

She recommends level three should become the minimum standard.

She said: “As a country we need to raise our expectations of what it means to work with young children, and attract the best people into the workforce.

“Every child deserves excellent early education and care.”